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Solving Conflicts with Love
5 years ago when I studied Logotherapy with the Victor Frankl Institute in America, I came across an article about Logotherapy and how to solve conflicts "with Love". Love means, according to the following article to “Respect the inmost nature of the other fellow, give it room to develop- and accord yourself the same!”
Love according to the following article, that appeared in a Magazine that is not published anymore, has to do with the ability to perceive a person- on the one hand as he actually is and on the other hand as he could be if his full potential is realized. Most relationships nowadays break up because we rarely penetrate to this innermost being.
I hope someone might find this article helpful and beneficial and it helps them to solve some conflict with LOVE
Conflict and reconciliation
The MAGNITUDE of many a natural disaster these days leaves a lot of victims in its wake. A sense of helplessness all around stirs in us both compassion and the anxious question whether similar disasters could hit us personally.
Quite obviously we are still capable of being touched by great visible suffering. But what is the situation in everyday interpersonal relationships? Worldwide, statistics show divorce rates continuing to rise, relationships breaking up. It begs the questions whether people are still able to communicate, understand one another or make themselves understood.
Recognizing the Nature of Love
The basis of a healthy, stable and lasting relationship is love. However the concept of love is so hackneyed that it no longer resonates deep within us or make sense.
Could the much-cited invitation of Jesus to “Love thy neighbor as thyself!” have been misunderstood? It is increasingly difficult to make sense of the concept or grasp it intuitively.
All statements attributed in the Bible to Jesus refer to man’s spirit, not his intellect, his senses or physical existence, as many assume, but to his innermost, his living core, which is spiritual.
The spirit bears all the intrinsic human abilities, namely the capacity to love, trust, take decisions, assume responsibility and many more.
As human beings, it is our duty to develop and use these capacities in our daily lives.
From my point of view, “Love thy neighbor as thyself!” simply means: “Respect the inmost nature of the other fellow, give it room to develop- and accord yourself the same!”
Viktor Frankl, the well-known Viennese psychiatrist and founder of logo therapy sees love as a relationship from one person to the other which enables us to become aware of our partner’s individuality.
Love has to do with the ability to perceive a person- on the one hand as he actually is and on the other hand as he could be if his full potential is realized. For the person concerned this disposition forms a helping, supporting basis to change, provided he himself is prepared to bring about this change.
It can be said that relationships often break up because we rarely penetrate to this innermost being. We do not really give room for development-neither to ourselves nor to our partner.
Our judgment is centered on externals like somebody’s looks, behavior, mistakes, weaknesses or strengths, and our affection relates to these. If our partner shows behavior that does not fit into our personal valuation system, we often withdraw our support and attention. Every day we have to reap the bitter harvest of this behavior, in small as well as in great things. We no longer manage to communicate!
The condition necessary for a neighborly existence is the readiness to open oneself and get a feel of how the other could be, to comprehend his nature and to allow him be the person he actually is.
Recognizing the Nature of Man
Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, has become widely known among other things through his book “A Life Worth Living”. It is an overwhelming testimony to how one can preserve and even deepen the belief that one’s life is guided from above and never loses its meaning, even in the face of the most dreadful and inhumane conditions.
The revolutionarily new approach of Frankl’s psychiatry is based on his recognition of the spiritual in the human being as being the essence of man. He focused on reawakening, addressing and strengthening this spiritual core to enable man to cope with his problems, troubles and weaknesses. Its purely constructive and beneficial method does not cling to the past or focus on weaknesses.
His basic statements regarding man can be summarized and commented as follows:
Recognizing the Nature of Conflicts
There are two prerequisites for positive change in interpersonal relationships: the readiness to work on oneself and the awareness that although one cannot change one’s partner, one can change oneself. The way we interact with one another can result in conflict situations. However, our attention should not constantly revolve around conflicts. We should aim at awakening strengths to surpass existing conflicts- or, better still- to avoid them beforehand. In general, conflicts come from a background of our faults and weaknesses.
We are fixated on our desires, worries and perceptions. There are certain desires that need to be satisfied like power, influence, prestige, which manifest in the wish to dictate. One simply wishes to be given the feeling of importance, to be better than others, to be loved and accepted, to have more than others-and much more. Keeping one’s gaze directed at oneself would incur crises and conflicts. The gaze directed at oneself is like an invisible wall that stands between you and your fellow human being, impeding an approach.
Whoever is self-absorbed is not open and as a consequence cannot reach others, and cannot be reached either.
It is then a matter of changing your perspective, changing it consistently, and directing it towards the human being with whom you have a relationship, towards the matter, the activity or task which you wish to perform, and last but not least towards the Creator and His Will which pervades and sustains the whole of Creation.
Some frequent causes of conflicts:
- The values of a person are not sufficiently respected; each defends and places his own values and beliefs above the values of his partner.
- The self-esteem of one’s partner is violated- the harm caused is substantial and the reactions can be accordingly strong; unchecked actions and exaggerated statements can ensue.
- We do not allow our partner to be different.
- There are misunderstandings that are not attended to because of one’s mindset. A partner’s statement is misinterpreted according to one’s attitude.
- Perceptions are the basis of a person’s attitude. If, for example, someone has misbehaved once or several times, then there is a great danger that this type of behavior will always be expected from him. The unpleasant experience resonates in each subsequent encounter, in every sentence uttered to each other.
- Permanent discontentment with others, often also with oneself, and censoriousness.
Recognizing Opportunities to Resolve Conflicts.
What chances do we have to act differently in conflict situations, to act in a more human way?
With regard to the values or the self-esteem of a partner it is important to put oneself in the other’s position, to try to understand him and to find out what is important to him. We can learn to respect his values- after all, we do not have to adopt them as our own – and we can learn to allow him to be different.
We often react out of habit: We may have had an unpleasant experience, for example we found out that someone said bad things about us, and respond to it in the same manner. It is similar with aggression and violence. In this way, the chain of suffering may extend in the world ranging from the smallest to the biggest things.
The vicious circle could be broken by an act of good will, or an attempt to improve the whole situation. Each one of us has been badly treated at least once. Now it would be to our best interest to give back a “positive arrow” despite the fact that we received a negative one! When this positive arrow reaches our partner, his conscience – an attribute of his spirit- may stir, he will feel encouraged to send a “positive arrow” in return.
So as human beings we should not only react to something, but consciously take action! We are free to leave the beaten track and in so doing turn everything to good account. We cannot and need not change our partner’s behavior. We are responsible for what we do and cannot justify our bad behavior by the bad behavior of our partner. But we are free to act differently, irrespective of what someone else does. If we experience frequently the same kind of conflicts with a particular person, it shows that our communication is biased. The tension between the two people can be relieved if our reaction is free of negative thoughts from past experiences. This requires us to tolerate the other’s weaknesses as a start and to be able to grant forgiveness. Moreover, we often have problems with our fellow human beings whose weaknesses are similar to our own. It is like holding up a mirror which could help us very much to work on ourselves – provided we actually look at ourselves in the mirror and accept what we see.
The discontentment with others and with oneself is often related to an addiction to perfection. We wish to obtain acceptance by achievement, which is rooted in the intellect. The perfectionist often struggles excessively against his own faults and those of others. This is fundamentally an unhealthy attitude which carries the risk of neurosis. We cannot fight against our faults. By criticizing, instructing and adopting a know-it-all attitude we do not eradicate any shortcomings, on the contrary, constant admonishing increases the error rate, as investigations have clearly shown. He, who desperately fights the imperfect, enforces the imperfect. Instead, it would be of more avail- while perceiving the shortcomings – to concentrate one’s volition on what is good and healthy so that it can spread and eventually prevail.
All in all each individual is called upon to scrutinize his personal share in the conflict and to perceive his own faults and shortcomings without sticking to them.
This requires courage and strength of character. It also requires courage to act in a different and unaccustomed way, irrespective of the partner’s behavior. This is only possible if done for the sake of a person or a matter.
There may be some who thinks: So I am supposed to put up with everything, to submit to everything for the sake of peace and quiet! I do not wish my statements to be understood in such a one-sided way. Honesty, clarity and an inner conviction are needed to solve conflicts on a humane basis, which may possibly bring about the need to distance oneself clearly from one’s partner. We may have to allow divergent opinions to exist side by side or we may have to speak bluntly- this far and no further- for example, if one’s dignity is infringed upon. In some cases it may also prove necessary to separate from a person in order to protect oneself or one’s personal path- out of conviction. However, such a separation should not be brought about with a feeling of hatred, this would merely create new bonds and dependencies. In contrast, we should try to relinquish our hold on our partner to let him go his own way and send our good thoughts to accompany him on this way. For only a parting on good terms is really a parting.
This makes us sense that a part of love is severity, severity in the sense of humanity, not to be misunderstood in the sense of harshness.
Recognizing one’s own Motives
It is certainly a help for our decision making to question our underlying motives. When we scrutinize them, we come across two basic motives which determine our behavior.
-a decision for something, a value, a human being, for preservation of nature, thus a decision born of love and devotion, from inner strength, or
-a decision against something or someone, born of insecurity or fear, thus a result of an inner weakness.
Let us bear in mind: Bliss and happiness, success, recognition or the wish to thrive cannot be brought about forcibly. The more one aspires towards them, the sooner they vanish. The striving to satisfy one’s needs is rooted in the concern about oneself.
This creates fear and is addictive. What happens, if these needs cannot be satisfied? What is left, when our striving is focused exclusively on the material, is never safe and always vulnerable? One who is exclusively geared to external securities is susceptible to risks, while the commitment to a meaningful activity, to a human being or a purpose makes us independent of success, and subsequently engenders bliss and happiness. But only if our orientation towards a meaningful aim is living and authentic. If we devote ourselves fully to our partner, we divine his abilities and thus give him room to develop, and for cooperating with many, each one finding the most suitable place for himself as in a big orchestra. Then we are no longer those who dictate, but stand at our post to fulfill our duty, give an answer
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More about Logotherapy and Love you can find in Book 3 of the Manual for more Joy in Life.
Edeltraud Jakob Grace: